As our President proved by touching his face almost immediately after claiming he hadn’t done so in months, not touching your face is almost impossible. But since that is one of the main ways we get several viruses, the CDC recommends we don’t do it.
I tried to not touch my face. I couldn’t do it. As one comedian put it, “How else do you know it’s still there?”
So, I’m working on a new habit to help protect myself from viruses like COVID-19. I try to open doors, shake hands, and similar tasks only with my right hand. I try to use only my left hand to wipe my eyes, scratch my nose, or clean my beard. Since our culture always shakes right hands, no matter which is your dominant hand, I suggest using this division of labor even if you are left-handed.
A habit is a set of behaviors we do so often we don’t have to think about them. It consists of a stimulus, a response, and a reward. In the case of an itchy nose, the itch is the stimulus, the response is to scratch, and the reward is relief. To change this habit, we just have to narrow the response to using our left hand to scratch and reinforce the reward by telling ourselves that we’ve done well when we make the switch.
It takes time to change habits. I’ll be working on this change for a while.